CA: Defining Santa Rosa’s Place In The Pot Industry

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Should Santa Rosa aspire to be the “New Age Amsterdam,” a Wine Country cousin to the Dutch city known for its permissive attitude about marijuana?

OK, that vision comes from a Penngrove pot farmer quoted in Staff Writer Kevin McCallum’s report on the city’s efforts to create a regulatory framework for the burgeoning medicinal marijuana industry (“SR aims to be epicenter of legal pot industry,” Sunday).

Santa Rosa officials are more circumspect, but their direction is clear.

“We’re the fifth-largest city in the Bay Area, located between a major market and port and the supply,” Councilwoman Julie Combs said. “I think that puts us in an excellent position to get the most public benefit possible from an industry that is here now.”

Combs may be right. And the city would be remiss if it didn’t explore its options, especially with the possibility that California voters will approve Proposition 64, an initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot that would legalize recreational use of marijuana and, almost certainly, launch a stampede of potrepreneurs eager to make their fortune growing and selling cannabis in all its various forms.

Before rushing ahead, however, let’s remember that most initiatives have unforeseen consequences. And, as Oakland learned after Proposition 215 legalized medicinal marijuana in 1996, cities that put out a welcome mat experience those consequences first.

It has taken nearly 20 years to reach anything approaching a consensus on who can legally grow, transport and sell medicinal marijuana in California and who can regulate the location of farms, dispensaries and ancillary businesses.

But the rules finally established last year in the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which run the gamut from watershed protections to product safety testing, probably won’t apply to a newly legalized recreational marijuana industry – at least not as it’s envisioned by the authors of Proposition 64.

That could mean costly legal battles as well as additional legislation to reconcile the laws governing medicinal and recreational marijuana.

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that budget language adopted by Congress prohibits the Justice Department from prosecuting people who grow, sell or use marijuana for medicinal reasons in compliance with state laws. But the budget proscription doesn’t extend to recreational use.

Federal law also bars marijuana-related businesses from using banks, rendering pot a cash-only industry susceptible to armed robberies.

Santa Rosa already offers permits for commercial marijuana cultivation in industrial areas and support services such as testing, manufacturing and distribution in areas zoned for industrial uses and offices.

A City Council subcommittee is considering whether Santa Rosa should allow more dispensaries, whether to expand the areas where cultivation is permitted, what security measures to require, whether to enact local regulations for marijuana-infused edibles and, perhaps most significantly, whether to impose additional taxes.

Santa Rosa’s finance director says a tax windfall is unlikely, and that’s probably true. State legislation to impose a 15 percent excise tax failed last week amid complaints that it would drive some users to the black market, which continues to thrive despite legalization of medicinal marijuana and the elimination of most penalties for recreational possession and use.

All of these issues need sober consideration before Santa Rosa can answer our question: Does the city want to be the region’s marijuana mecca?

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Defining Santa Rosa’s Place In The Pot Industry
Author: The Editorial Board
Contact: (800) 675-5056
Photo Credit: Seth Perlman
Website: The Press Democrat